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Welsh Premier League 2002-03

WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE 2002-03

Following a disappointing end to the previous season, when away form completely deserted the team, it was good to kick-off the new term with a victory on the road. Goals from Craig Hutchinson, George Horan and Andy Griffiths ensured Nomads began with three points gained at the expense of Oswestry Town (3-2). A loss followed at Barry Town a week later and two more points were dropped in a home draw with Caernarfon Town.

September 2002 began with a win at Newtown and then a 3-0 home trouncing of Llanelli, Tommy Mutton bagging a brace of goals in both matches to take his early season tally to five. Port Talbot Town were our next home opponents and arrived on Deeside at the top of the league having just beaten Barry Town at Jenner Park. Mutton opened the scoring but Talbot replied with two goals in three minutes before a late penalty (Mutton again) earned us a 2-2 draw ahead of a midweek game at home against Aberystwyth Town.

When the Black n' Greens took the lead with 15 minutes remaining it looked likely that our five match unbeaten streak would come to an end but Nomads plugged away and goals from Stuart Rain (84 minutes) and Tommy Mutton two minutes later left us cock-a-hoop and near the top of the table. A 0-2 loss away to TNS followed that took the Llansantffraid team to within two points of league leaders Bangor City but Nomads themselves were still only four points adrift of the top spot and two more victories over Haverfordwest County (3-1) and then by two goals to nil away to Cwmbran Town kept the momentum going.

Confidence was high ahead of the visit by Caersws on 9th November. Six wins and three draws from Nomads' eleven league fixtures had kept them in the title hunt and Caersws had just a single point to show from their five away games. Bluebirds' centre-forward Graham Evans scored early on and it took until the hour mark before Stuart Terry equalised. Nomads pushed for victory but another Evans strike and a third goal scored by Ross Stephens just three minutes later put the skids under the Quay's ambitions.

Nonetheless, home victories over Carmarthen Town (1-0) and lowly Welshpool Town (4-0) quickly followed and when Stuart Rain put us a goal up against Oswestry just 45 seconds into the game on 14th December it seemed that the players had put that loss to Caersws at the back of their minds. Although we also scored against Oswestry in the last few seconds of that game the visitors had enjoyed a ‘purple match’ midway through the second-half when they found the net four times in 18 minutes! So it was that December 2002 brought Nomads nil points from four league games a run in which we scored twice (those goals against Oswestry) but conceded eleven.

The Boxing Day fixture at home to Rhyl was lost to the weather and this after the Non-League Newspaper had previously mentioned Nomads featuring "in a ploughing match" against Carmarthen Town, such was the deterioration in the playing surface at the Deeside Stadium. During the autumn months Nomads had failed to win a game in the FAW Premier Cup, opposing Newport County, Bangor City and TNS in our group, but Welsh Cup successes against Brickfield Rangers and Newtown meant that we had a fourth round tie at Llandudno to look forward to.

Thankfully, 2003 began with a good win away at Llanelli (5-3) and the team followed up by putting four goals past Flexsys Cefn Druids. Tommy Mutton scored in each of those games and did so in the next four matches too. His goal at Port Talbot was enough to earn all three points. Two successive away league games resulted in Nomads losing 1-3 at Aberystwyth then winning by the same score at Haverfordwest. Sandwiched in between those matches was the Welsh Cup tie at Llandudno which also ended 3-1 with our goals from Griffiths, Terry and, of course, Mutton.

A 0-1 defeat at Rhyl ended our cup hopes and three days later we suffered another setback by going down 1-2 away to title-chasing Bangor City despite Craig Hutchinson giving us the lead just before half-time. The loss to Rhyl was quickly avenged the following Saturday with a 2-1 home win, George Horan making his 100th appearance for the Nomads, but the curse of Caersws struck again in the following game when that man Graham Evans score the only goal that left us in seventh place in the league with Caersws only two points behind.

A 1-0 win at Newtown was balanced out by a defeat of the same proportion at home to Total Network Solutions four days later leaving us with five fixtures to the end of the season, three of them against teams sitting above us in the league. Another Craig Hutchinson goal earned us a point at Carmarthen Town in a 1-1 draw before the campaign drew to a close in the most unexpected way - four games and four wins all by a 2-1 scoreline!

Bangor City's championship hopes were crushed by goals from George Horan and a late winner from Tommy Mutton. Away games followed at Welshpool Town (Mutton and Rain netting) and then Rhyl where we departed with the three points and a satisfying league double over our Clwyd neighbours. Tommy Mutton and Gary McCosh (who featured on the home programme cover all season long) scored the goals at Belle Vue and did so once again as we brought down the curtain at home to Afan Lido on 26th April.

That quartet of 2-1 victories saw the Nomads claim a best-ever fifth place in the league table at the end of the 2002/03 season. The final match was our 400th in the national league and appropriately Afan Lido were our opponents as they had been in the very first game back in August 1992. Without a doubt Tommy Mutton, our slightly built but strong centre-forward, had played a major role in the team's success scoring 23 league goals and finishing just one behind the league's top scorer, Graham Evans of Caersws (who else?!). Three players Steve Hopkins, Gary McCosh and goalkeeper David Walsh featured in all 34 league fixtures and George Horan in 33.

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